My sister-in-law was kind enough to forfeit a chance to see her alma mater play so my brother, Dad, and my friend got to see Purdue play MSU this evening. These aren't OK seats...they're stupid-good seats. Section 18, Row 15...sure, the seats in Mackey are waaaaaaay too narrow, but that didn't bother us. We were in the best venue (because of tremendous sight lines) in college basketball with a bunch of people who are bringing back the thunder from Mackey circa 1990-something. So what did I see that couldn't be seen on TV? Quite a bit, I think.
First off, I got to see just how hard Chris Kramer plays all of the time. He had the unenviable task of chasing Drew Neitzel around the court for 40 minutes. Neitzel's good...just not great v. Purdue. Tonight, it wasn't because Drew was off, it was because Kramer was in his jersey for the entire contest. I understand why Kramer is tired on offense so often (he was that way v. Wisconsin too)...he's just constantly working on defense.
There was a 7-10 minute period in which Purdue watched a 16-point lead melt down to three...so why did that happen? Well, they looked tired, as a team...and even emotionless...something very unusual for this team. I honestly think they might have simply worn themselves out with the highly-emotional win v. Wisky followed by a similar first half v. the Spartans. But, instead of folding when really being pushed by a very good MSU team, they showed a ton of grit and fortitude and found enough toughness to distance themselves from the scrappy and highly-ranked Spartan squad.
I figure it's better to bitch about officiating after a win than a loss, so here goes. While 2/3s of the officiating crew was pretty good tonight, the third guy was an abomination. He simply wouldn't make calls, no matter how obvious in nature the violation. He missed travels, reach-ins, over-the-backs, hooks, holds, clear-outs and others. I hope he doesn't get paid much, because he didn't deserve a nickel.
Robbie Hummel is smart, fundamentally sound and very talented. ESPN can show you highlights, but what you might not catch is that during a seven-minute period, he was simply dog tired. I kept pleading with Painter to give him just a 30-second rest, but he denied me over and over. As a result, Hummel was visibly gassed. But, when the game got down to the narrowest of magins, Purdue really needed a bucket. Robbie Hummel concentrated on getting open, set his feet, relied on his fundamentals and drained a three. His performance was unlike any Purdue star performance I've seen simply because of the fact that he dominated on the glass, on the offensive end and defensively during more than one stretch of the game. Lewis, Robinson, the Austin brothers, and others dominate on offense...Lowe, Sheffler, Stevens and others took games over defensively...Hummel does it either way. And his will is monstrously strong.
While Terry Hutchens didn't buy into Hummel as an impact player, and won't admit it, I will. I was sure he would be a solid role player that would be very good by the time he was a Junior or Senior. He is ahead of schedule...and can get much, much better. And, I was wrong about him...But I wasn't about Moore- he's pretty good too.
Moore is a very good player, but will get much better as he gets stronger. As he is able to create space with a stronger frame, he'll be able to rely on the drive when his stroke's not working.
Calasan needs to hit that baby hook...And Purdue needs him to do so as well. His feet are great and he's very good at getting in the right position and getting the ball. But, he simply doesn't shoot at a high-enough percentage when on the blocks. That said, he wears out defenders because he's active and forces them to guard him on the perimeter.
So what does tonight's win mean?
-It means that Purdue is in full control of its future. Will they add to the case of Big Ten Championship trophies that used to be a normal occurrence? Maybe, but there's a lot of work left to do. They play the best team in the Big Ten on Tuesday and have a bunch of other tough games before the BT tourney.
-As much as I'd like them to be, they're no longer under the radar. The national media is buying in...so Painter has a whole new set of problems to solve. I'm confident he can keep their heads screwed on straight...but I'm a bit skeptical of how Crump & Calasan will handle success.
-Matt Painter simply must be a finalist for the Nation COY
-Hummel, with an "OK" game v. Northwestern, will become POW for the second week in the row. Honestly, I understand why one Wisconsin paper said Kramer was the player of the game last Saturday...It could be argued that he deserved such an honor this evening. But that's like giving the Super Bowl MVP to an o-linemen...Hey, somebody's gotta do it and Kramer is probably the best defensive player in the Big Ten.
Next up, Northwestern at the house of purple. Remember Boilers, the IU game isn't worth nearly as much if you don't handle your business in Evanston.
Don't read the internet or papers this week, read your books, study hard and practice hard...Coach Painter will let you know what you need to hear.